Valve Announces Steam OS

Valve Announces Steam OS

Steam is getting its very own operating system, Valve announced today. It will be a combination of Steam’s current platform and Linux.

SteamOS is a free operating system designed for living rooms that Valve says “combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen.”

Valve says they’ve already got “hundreds of games” that will come to the new operating system next year, and that you’ll be able to access the entire Steam catalogue via “in-home streaming”, a process they haven’t quite explained yet.

“In SteamOS, we have achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level,” Valve writes. “Game developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases.”

Valve also announced four new features that will be available both for SteamOS and the standard Steam platform: streaming, family sharing, parental restrictions, and options for movies, music, and other media.

“SteamOS will be available soon as a free download for users and as a freely licensable operating system for manufacturers,” Valve writes. “Stay tuned in the coming days for more information.”
This is the first of three scheduled Valve announcements this week, all connected to the company’s plans for bringing Steam into living rooms.

For almost a year now, Valve has been teasing the idea of Steam-branded hardware — an initiative that could prove game-changing as we enter the next generation of consoles. Last December, Valve boss Gabe Newell told me that the Steam Box would compete with Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen offerings. The company has been slowly trickling out details since then.

Announcement #2 will go live on Wednesday night.


  • This is massive! In my very uneducated opinion, is this like if steam gaming went from being run in a virtual OS, to being run in dedicated OS? Complete optimisation, no background processing unrelated to gaming? If so, awesome! I wonder how much of a boost it gives

    • The same amount consoles get I imagine. Like how a lower spec console punches above its weight when compared to pc specs.

      • Not quite the same amount as consoles. There’s still a lot a dedicated gaming PC will have to do that a console wont. That said, the performance increase will still be significant.

      • Not entirely. The issue of hardware segmentation remains. Xbox and PS3 hardware is identical across the board, so developers can optimise the shit out of their software to squeeze every corner of what’s available. Much like Apple and their OS’s.

        It’s a step in the right direction, and this coupled with the proprietary “Steam box” will make Valve a true competitor in the living room gamer-sphere.

    • So this would mean that Valve could release a relatively inexpensive, mid range gaming SteamBox PC that would perform better than it would if it were to run on Windows? And likely as good as XBone and PS4?

      So maybe they do have a game changer – or at least can become as strong as Sony and Microsoft in the home console arena with one swell swoop.

      Afterall, they have the (digital) distribution model and market; they have developers on side (first and third party); they have their own IP; if they have their own OS and ability to churn out affordable and effective hardware then they’re at least matching Sony and Microsoft – aren’t they?

      Next announcement will be about controllers, and then about the Steam Box.

      Maybe they’ll be following the MSX approach.

    • From what I understand it’s a dedicated OS that “Streams” from another gaming PC in the house.
      combined with cheaper streaming hardware, it would be like being able to share your gaming rig to your lounge room. It probably won’t be able to do much by itself, maybe just built in media apps.

  • Sounds great. Is steam OS just for tvs though? They should market a linux distro to replace windows in the pc space.

    • Yes, I’m in for this. The sole reason I bootcamp Windows is for gaming, so if I can use SteamOS instead then I’m definately on board. I’d imagine that it’s a fully scalable OS, so big rigs can fully make use of it

      • I also only bootcamp for gaming. Many of my games run well on my mac so i find myself booting into win7 less and less. I would ditch win7 if i could get the rest of my games working well.

        I also love linux. I’ve got a lightweight distro on my (now old) laptop for uni.

  • As a user with more than one PC around the house, I’m interested in this Steam to SteamOS Streaming for non-linux versions of games. As being able to lay in bed with an xbox 360 controller while playing sat GRID 2 at max settings on my main rig sounds sweet.
    Much like how the Vita TV can play your PS4 games I guess.

  • This will be great for Source games, which have a tendency (Half Life 2 anyway) to crash on Windows 7 due to an incompatibility.

    Unfortunately, if people want to install this on their primary gaming machine and they don’t have any other Windows based machines, this will lock them out of many games unless devs/publishers start pushing for Linux support on new AAA releases.

    • β€œGame developers are already taking advantage of these gains as they target SteamOS for their new releases.”

      They might be.

      • Indie titles maybe, as many of them already support Linux… But you’d probably never see any of the large AAA titles unless released by Valve that would natively support Steam OS.

        But who knows, hopefully if Steam OS takes off it encourages more devs to make Linux compatible ports of their games.

  • So they’re releasing an OS that can’t natively play the majority of their own games?

    Yeah no thanks. I’ll stick with windows that runs everything natively with no stuff arounds.

    Edit: Removed the parts that were just wrong.

    • The streaming would not be relevant to your network, just your home LAN. You could have a cheap Steambox on your TV that streams wirelessly from your Windows gaming PC.

      • Exactly. Also dual boot with windows and steam os for those that don’t have a windows machine to stream to their steam box.

        • I stream movies from one PC to another. Depends on your network, but it shouldn’t be a problem (hopefully). Remember OnLive managed to get pretty low latency with its streaming service in the US and that was on broadband connections.

          • Meh, a steambox is going to be more expensive than the Belkin AV transmitter I already have – it’s around $100 and stream the hdmi output from a room where my pc is to my living room, with no apparent loss (I can even stream stereoscopic 3D with no issues) and no perceptible lag. Steam big screen mode is great for that, but I really don’t need another device running steamOs to stream to my tv…

    • Did you read the article? In home streaming. Unless your home network consists of tin cans and string you will probably be alright.

      *edit – spelling

      • I did but I appeared to have missed that part.

        Still, considering my PC is already hooked up to my TV I still have no need for it personally.

        • I’m of the same opinion. I already have a dedicated HTPC in my lounge room.
          If they improved Big Picture mode to run netflix and other media then I could just boot straight into that and have everything I need.
          Big Picture + XBMC in one package = holy grail.

  • Sounds interesting but I doubt I will use it unless they somehow get their entire catalogue ported to linux.

    I have too many windows based games, as well as ones that require origin or uplay. I’ll just stick to big picture mode.

  • As someone who games with BPM on my TV a lot, this is very interesting to me. However, this obviously means I need to dual boot since I don’t want to lose all the Windows games I own…… Problem is I only have a 60GB SSD, so might need to have a look and see how much of that I can sacrifice for another OS. hmmmm

  • It’ll be hilarious to see the master race sing praises for this and the whole optimisation for the dedicated OS concept then deny that consoles have any benefits… I have a decent gaming PC, but please shoot me if I ever become a supremacist.

    • Join us in the master race. You can cheekily be very tongue-in-cheek about it so that people suspect you’re parodying the stereotype, while you embrace the truth of our extremist ideals.
      Dooo eeeeeet.

    • Unless I’ve missed some insane people, for most the problem is closed systems with reduced features and performance.

      There are definitely advantages to consoles, just not enough to suit some people’s wants. If this works right, it’ll have all of the advantages of both systems without the drawbacks.

  • People are being skeptical about this, but consider when Steam first came out. It wasn’t exactly user-friendly. Now it’s the largest store and library for PC gaming and basically everyone who games on their PC has it installed. Given a bit of time, this will take off. Now for the third announcement to be Halif Life 3. I care not for a Steambox after a Steam OS announcement

  • I don’t mean to be negative but don’t we have enough operating systems already? Am I am not talking about the main three flavours: Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

    We also have a number of UNIX distributions (like FreeBSD and Darwin which is know for being the foundation for Mac OS X) and a slew of research oriented operating systems. To name a couple:
    * Haiku, a open reimplementation of BeOS
    * AROS, a open reimplementation of AmigaOS 3
    * Inferno, a distributed operating system that allows resources on computers connected via a network to be shared transparently

    When I look at SteamOS I get the same impression as ChromeOS. A specialised solution but what for?

    I personally think Valve is starting bite off more than it can chew. They should keep away from operating systems and stick to video games. They are starting to become like Apple where they not only control the application but the platform you run it on.

      • Google tried that with ChromeOS for the week. It didn’t last too long.

        A gaming OS maybe OK on paper but I do not see it practical in the real world. Unless you are only making a game console then there is no point to a game specific OS.

        • You realise that some people primarily use their uber-PC to only play games and watch movies. No statistical analysis. No advanced simulations of quantum particles. No excel. No video editing. No etc. … Just pretty looking games and a bit of text writing here and there.

        • Yeah but using ChromeOS means you’ll have to buy all your games again, where as using Steam OS will just give you access to your massive steam library. Plus with game lending, I can borrow a game a friend bought and not worry about paying for it

    • Too many free OS? WTF? Why? You are not really offering an arguement – just a list. Could you explain WHY making software for your own OS (possibly on your own steam hardware) is fundamentally bad?

      • I said there are too many OSes, not too many free. But you are right, I’m not offering an argument. I am contributing to a discussion.

        Also I did not even imply making apps for ones own OS is bad. I do not know where you got that idea from but it certainly was not my post.

        As the old expression goes, don’t go putting words in my mouth.

        • Making apps for ones own OS being bad is implied by “become like Apple where they not only control the application but the OS as well”.I assumed by control you mean actual control I.e. creating the app as opposed to vetting it via an approval process. Regardless – why is either bad? Why are there too many OS’ free or otherwise? I think the streaming function in itself is useful.

    • The key difference would be that Steam already has the hearts, minds and wallets of millions – and it has a few billion in the bank to promote whatever it is they decide to do.

      They have a solid chance of etching a place in the market for themselves.

  • This is a pretty bad idea.
    Unless Valve is going to port all new games to their OS, the developers are going to have to develop for a new OS along side Windows and MAC.

    I get WHY they want to do this, but i really doubt that its going to have the massive uptake they think it will.

    • It’s not really developing for a new OS, it’s just giving a much bigger reason to develop for Linux. Valve has been prodding developers toward developing/porting for Linux for over a year now, and reading between the lines of the announcement, i’d say that most of the major developers at least have had *some* foreknowledge that developing for Linux was going to be kind of a big deal in the future.

      The problem will come down to what you *can’t* run on it. With Origin/MS exclusives and a lot of smaller developers, I don’t see much likelihood of 100% catalogue availability.

      I’m still interested, I basically just use my PC for internet, movies, music, managing the above files and of course games. Wait and see I guess.

  • I’ll definitely give this a try on my new HTPC. I’ll reserve judgement til than, but hey thats just me, if you like doomsaying and finding the negative in everything go for it.

    If I can stream games for my gaming rig to my living room that would be awesome.

  • Ill just alt tab out and adjust the volume on my mumble/teamspeak/whatever so I can….. oh right its PConsole cant do that.

  • Remember when Gaben shot down Windows 8 and everyone was postulating why?

    Anyhoo, I’m keen to see what they can achieve with the new OS. If it works well then I know I’ll end up using it one way or the other.

  • I arch an eyebrow in mild surprise. That’s new and unexpected.

    I have my doubts about it, but on paper it makes sense… one of the things folks have known pretty clearly about Linux whenever Gaben has said (paraphrased), “Down with Windows, up with Linux!” is that it presents a problem: “Sure. Which distro, though?” [Edit: Eg – Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, etc.]

    Seems like they thought about that question a while and said, “Ours.”

    This isn’t as much a new OS as much as it is making a shift to Linux work.

    • I arch an eyebrow in mild surprise. That’s new and unexpected.

      “Sure. Which distro, though?”
      Seems like they thought about that question a while and said, “Ours.”

      I like this guy. He writes good.

  • Will it let us install other programs? Whenever I’m gaming, I tend to have Mumble/Teamspeak and a browser open, as well as random things like a text editor or Winamp.

    In any case, a shakeup is always interesting. Look forward to their other announcements.

    • You’ll definitely be able to run multiple programs. Teamspeak already has Linux support, though I would actually expect them to incorporate a new OS level voice chat system. Only problem with that sort of thing usually would be compatibility, but lets face it, if everyone’s running steam…
      I would expect basically full Linux support and thus anything you can run on Linux is good to go, however obviously with a core focus on Steam/Gaming.

      • But if steamOS can run multiple programs, then it defeats the point. It wont be a “gaming centric os” anymore. The only thing a “gaming os” can do that will make it better for gaming is to run only the parts of the os and programs that deal with gaming. If you can install other programs at will, then its not a gaming os anymore its just an os. I can tell you know that value can not create a normal os that will even touch Windows or even Mac OS. Value will does not have the skill to improve on the Linux kernel, nor can it improve the hardware since it wont make the drivers.

      • Skype? Way too much overhead, and only really works between two people.

        I’d recommend teamspeak [or even vent if your boat floats the way]. Much lighter on your system and much more suited to gaming. Plus you can encrypt the traffic and not have it all flow through the hands of any entity that wants it.

          • you game….. while streaming video?
            Unless you’re on an NBN connection already [in which case, I hate you :p ], this must chew up a heck of a lot of your upstream bandwidth.

            I must say that this was the best part about LAN parties, the social interaction. I don’t know if a video would cut it for me, haha.

          • our pings still comfortably sit at around 25-50(max) basically we already have a version of the coalition nbn πŸ™‚

          • Depends how customized and locked-down SteamOS is. If they need to do a special version for it I doubt they’ll bother.

          • steamOS is [from all reports] based on Ubuntu/Debian, so likely will support the installation of the native skype .deb package.
            All that being said, steamOS is being designed as a living-room OS, to be controlled with a gamepad, not a keyboard and mouse. Combined with the fact that the skype client of linux is pretty crap [it’s only maintained to the point where it can still connect to the servers] and it’s not going to be much fun. I’d recommend google hangouts though for video chat. So much better optimisation.
            But yeah, for just voice, TS all the way.

  • I wonder if it includes the console or terminal being spammed with floating errors? Then if it does they canrelease 2 updates that dont fix it and adds hats.

  • While I mainly use my PC for gaming, even if the performance was fantastic and the price of the games was cheaper there are just too many games that are not on steam to switch OS. Putting Origin aside, there are great games like Mechwarrior Online & Minecraft that simply just do not appear on Steams catalogue. Who would miss out on a game like Minecraft for a performance enhancement and a larger screen?

    • there are 2 more announcements left for this week by valve, for all we know half life 3 could be one of them

      • I wish I could share your optimism. I actually chuckled when I read your comment, Half Life 3 is never coming out, the Borealis has sailed on that one.

  • I’m VERY interested in this “in-home streaming” bit. I’ve spent months looking into the best way to get my games from my Win7 PC to my TV (too long/awkward for a cable, wireless HDMI bit exxy), but if I can make a gaming HTPC with SteamOS and stream game data over WiFi I’m golden. Put XBMC and a heap of emulators, that’d be sweet – if only Linux played nicer with BluRay.

  • This isn’t going to work.

    1. There are plenty of games that don’t run on steam.
    2. There are a lot more games that don’t run on Linux.
    3. Value cant make any real improvements to an os to make it better for games
    3. a) They cant make the hardware better since they don’t make the drivers
    3. b) Value does not have the skill to improve the Linux kernel over the 100,000’s of devs who have worked on Linux, and have tried for more then a decade to support games better.
    3. c) The “optimisation” of the os to make it game friendly is only going to remove sections of the os. We’re talking about a small amount of the resources used on the computer. The most I’d ever see them doing is a 5% increase on the performance of games, at MAX.
    3. d) this is still going to be on Linux, which has a noticeable amount of performance issues compared to windows. More then the 5% increase they could get out of improving Linux.

    The biggest point to take from this is. It doesn’t matter how hard they try, they still are not going to make an OS that is better then windows for gaming. It going to be slower then windows performance wise. Its not going to be able to run a big noticeable amount of games. It wont let you run extra gaming software on the side, like teamspeak. The hardware devs are not going to be creating drivers for it anymore then they do for Linux (which is still pretty bad). And last but not least, its going to be one more platform the devs have to look after, which will create more bugs and slow downs (which has been demonstrated many times).

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